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Arguably Phyllis Birnbaum’s best biography to date, “Glory in a Line” examines the life of Japanese painter Tsuguharu “Leonard” Foujita.

Although he supported Japan’s military cause in World War II, we shouldn’t condemn Foujita’s best work for a lapse, however serious, in judgment. The work must stand alone. And in Foujita’s case it was a very fine output, one that included sinuous female nudes, drawings of cats and portraits completed on journeys to then-remote areas of Latin America and Okinawa. Even his depictions of heroic last stands in desperate battles of the Pacific, such as on Saipan and the Aleutians, transcend propaganda, showing us vainglorious, Goya-like slaughters.

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